The United States failed to live up to expectations in the first two World Baseball Classic tournaments. Hopefully, the third time is a charm as it begins its run in 2013.
In their first game, the Americans will face North American rival Mexico, who lost on Thursday against Italy. This puts the team at a major disadvantage as it tries to advance in Pool D, which also includes Canada.
Still, Team USA cannot take this matchup easy, as their opponent is full of major league talent led by Adrian Gonzalez and Sergio Romo. If David Wright, Ryan Braun and others cannot overcome the loss of Mark Teixeira, things could end early for the home team.
Which team will win Pool D?
This should be an exciting battle full of All-Star players, so make sure you do not miss a second of the action.
Where: Chase Field, Phoenix, Ariz.
When: Friday, March 8 at 9 p.m. ET
Watch: MLB Network, ESPN Deportes
If you receive MLB Network as part of your television subscription on Bright House, DIRECTV or Time Warner Cable, you can watch the game online at the World Baseball Classic website.
You can also watch the event live on any apple product by clicking here.
United States: R.A. Dickey
R.A. Dickey rightfully earned the N.L. Cy Young award last season after winning 20 games with the New York Mets and posting a 2.73 ERA with 230 strikeouts.
The knuckleballer was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays this offseason, but his unique pitch will keep hitters off-guard in any location, including in this matchup against Mexico.
However, the batters could end up being fortunate to face Dickey early in the year. Over the past three years, his April ERA was 4.12, much worse than the 2.95 overall.
The Americans must hope his early-season struggles do not carry over into the WBC.
Mexico: Yovani Gallardo
Over the past few years, Yovani Gallardo has been one of the more underrated pitchers in baseball.
The Milwaukee Brewers starter has totaled at least 13 wins, over 200 strikeouts and an ERA of under four in each of the past four seasons.
With a relatively weak lineup behind him, however, Gallardo will need to be almost flawless to get his team the win.
Prediction: USA 5, Mexico 2
Gallardo will certainly make things difficult on the American squad, but the lineup is simply too deep to struggle.
Once the table-setters of Brandon Phillips and Jimmy Rollins get on base, the power in the outfield with Ryan Braun, Giancarlo Stanton and Adam Jones should be able to bring them home.
Mexico just does not have enough hitting ability to keep up in this game.